movie minutes: master + pandora

Have decided to do brief movie reviews wherever I can because Korean cinema  produces stellar stuff consistently. I’m no movie critic so everything penned is my own thoughts and musings. I usually catch Korean movies when I’m in Seoul, on the plane, and through streaming from random websites. I watched these two movies in Seoul when I was there recently.

I kinda wish Kim Woo Bin would just stick to movies since he is just so much better in them – or maybe he should choose scripts which have little or no romance. I’ve enjoyed Kim Woo Bin immensely in all his movies and Master is no different. The plot, centred on a cult-like multi-level marketing organisation working as a glamorous front for a massive nationwide scam, hits close to home, especially in Asia.

Lee Byung Hun is chillingly smooth as the head honcho of the scam, with a resplendent Jin Kyung as his right-hand woman. Kim Woo Bin is the smart-ass programmer who developed the system while Kang Dong Won is the mercurial detective determined to bring the organisation down. The movie sheds light on the sombre issue of how citizens lose hard-earned savings by the hundreds of thousands because of such crooked corporations and drives home the point that one has the responsibility to be careful and discerning when it comes to personal investments.

The movie, though action-packed and meaty in narrative, was a tad too long for me at over two hours. It did feel a little draggy at some parts though the overall product is slickly delivered and deserves most of its accolades.

I don’t think I’ve ever hated a Kang Dong Won movie and kudos to him for choosing diverse roles cutting across all genres. His boyish looks contrast with his insouciant onscreen charm, honed from exclusively doing movies for the past decade or so. He was a snappy conman in A Violent Prosecutor and he turns shrewd law enforcer in Master.

He’s an 81’er – which isn’t that old and it is impressive how many hit films he has under his belt. He confessed in a recent interview that he doesn’t receive many drama offers – which I find astonishing – and wouldn’t mind returning to the small screen if a good script catches his eye. Er… I sincerely hope he wouldn’t do so unless an awesome script comes along. I dunno – maybe Kim Eun Sook can consider him for her next sageuk drama.


Seriously. Kim Nam Gil should stop wishing for death in his projects. He dies again in Pandora, a story about an explosion of a nuclear power plant in a rural, seaside city in South Korea. The man-made catastrophe, caused by negligence of the company running the plant, causes disarray in the government with an incompetent president (a charismatic Kim Myung Min – what’s new) unable to call the shots, as citizens, workers at the plant, and first responders are thrown into mass confusion. The disaster escalates to epic proportions as radioactive levels surge and no clear evacuation procedures are implemented.

The workers of the plant decide not to evacuate and stay on to desperately attempt to salvage the situation and prevent a second explosion from taking place. The workers drop like flies since they have been exposed to radioactivity, with the brave, responsible maintenance engineer (Jung Jin Young – one of absolute fave veteran actors out there) rallying his superiors to do something. But the higher-ups are more worried about the bottom line of the plant being decommissioned rather than saving lives so it is up to the ordinary citizens to sacrifice their lives so that their families and others can live. 

Kim Nam Gil plays a technician at the power plant who dreams of leaving his rural hometown. His father and brother were killed while working at the very same plant, though his mother stubbornly doesn’t see the point of he dreaming big.

Ultimately, the hot-headed technician chooses to blow up the main reactor – because someone has to detonate the bomb – to prevent a second explosion and the gut-wrenching farewell video message he leaves for his family and the entire country had me tearing non-stop. He rails at one point: “What did I do so wrong that I deserve to die like this?” 

Exactly. He did nothing to warrant such a fate.